FolkFireJuly/August 1996 Issue Reviews

  • Bryndle
  • The Grace Family - "Dance Upon the Earth"
  • "Echoes of the Ozarks"
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  • Bryndle: A Band Review
    by Rich Simmons

    You probably don’t know this band, but they sound so familiar. Perhaps some long forgotten melody, maybe the swelling harmonies, the almost chime-like guitars. Something... Bryndle was originally formed in 1969. This quartet hoped to create a partnership which would be mutually supportive and serve as a springboard for their individual careers. Their first album, recorded in 1970, was doomed by various record company follies and was never released. Shortly after, these four friends split and sought solo careers with varying degrees of success.

    Bryndle is Andrew Gold, Karla Bonoff, Wendy Waldman, and Kenny Edwards. After an informal social gathering in 1993, they decided it was time to resurrect their collaboration. In 1995, Bryndle released their second album.

    For those of you unfamiliar with the solo careers of these artists, here’s a brief synopsis:
    Andrew Gold - Scored big hits with Lonely Boy and Thank You for Being a Friend; early band mate of Linda Ronstadt; huge international success as part Wax (with former 10cc Graham Gouldman); currently on TV every week singing the theme to Mad about You.
    Karla Bonoff - First solo album won many critics' awards; biggest solo hit Personally; tremendous success as a writer for Linda Ronstadt including All My Life and Someone to Lay Down Beside Me.
    Wendy Waldman - Has mostly had success as a writer including hits for Wynonna, Aaron Neville, and Vanessa Williams.
    Kenny Edwards - Has been an important part of Linda Ronstadt's career since the Stone Poneys. He has written for, produced, and played on dozens on albums over the years. This pedigree alone may cause the interest in Bryndle to rise. Luckily, that interest is not in vain.

    One of the most striking elements of this album is that it sounds so good. The production values are extremely high. Particularly, the vocals are blended so well as to rival the best of Crosby, Stills, and Nash. The acoustic instrumentation also is very reminiscent of early CSN. In terms of stylistic approach, the band stays close to what they know and do well. On the Wind is very similar to Karla Bonoff’s solo work in the early 80s. I Want to Touch You and The Lucky One are filled to the brim with the hooks that has made each member a successful songwriter. This album very easily and happily fits into the Southern California mold pioneered by the likes of the Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, and Jackson Browne, among others. Fans of this style will be very pleased.

    Happily, there isn’t a bad cut on this release. Stand-out songs include the hard-driving, tight harmonies of the opener, Take Me In, Edwards' The Wheel, and Bonoff’s Under the Rainbow. Every song features strong melodies and harmonies which have been the trademarks of each member's solo work.

    Lyrically, this album is weaker than the solo work each member has given us over the years. Ten of the fourteen songs were co-written by the band which may have contributed this. Even so, this is a much better than average work.

    While this album doesn't quite match the best of their individual efforts, this is still a fine release worthy of attention. Hopefully, Bryndle won't wait another 25 years before recording again.

    The Grace Family - "Dance Upon the Earth"
    by Dan Klarmann

    You can hear the fun in this latest recording from Paul and Win and their daughters Leela and Ellie. For over an hour, their great vocal harmonies stand out in their old-time musical celebration of life, transition, and experience.

    Some songs, like Turn Your Radio On, Chicken, and The Barefoot Boy With Boots On will make you laugh and sing along. Some are inspiring, like We Shall Not Give Up the Fight from South Africa and Song of Harriet Tubman by Leela. The choreographed clogging feet of Leela and Ellie add lively percussion to their rendition of the old favorite Nail That Catfish to a Tree.

    This album has range: Instrumentally it presents everything from a cappella thru instrumental. Songs date from the civil war thru this year. Songs to warm your heart, or give you chills. But everything is perfectly produced and performed.

    If you’ve seen the Graces perform, you must have this album. Just close your eyes and watch the glowing, smiling faces of the whole family as the girls add their gracefully flying feet and twirling bodies to the musical ensemble. If you don't yet know them, and you like old-time family music, this album is for you.

    (July 4-7 they’ll be at Fair St. Louis (aka the V.P. Fair) and at the Sept 29 advanced contradance at Focal Point ).

    CD & tape available at Grace Family concerts, or call 573-443-2819.

    Several Artists: "Echoes of the Ozarks"
    County 3506/3507
    by Paul Stamler

    Back in the late 1920s, phonograph companies began sending crews to the American South in search of musicians. Their hope was to record regional bands, usually at the town furniture store, press some 78 rpm records, and sell them back to the locals along with machines to play them on. They hit pay dirt: there was a huge market for old-time dance tunes and songs among rural Southerners. A new industry - "“hillbilly" music - had been born, and it flourished for several years until the Depression squeezed the record companies too tight around 1932.

    Among the most fertile sources of music was the Ozark region of Missouri and Arkansas. Bands like Pope's Arkansas Mountaineers, Dr. Smith's Hoss Hair Pullers, George Edgin's Corn Dodgers and Luke Highnight's Ozark Strutters made their few discs, got paid a couple of dollars, and were immortalized - for the music they recorded has survived and been reissued on a pair of CDs, Echoes of the Ozarks. County released some of this material on three identically-titled LPs in the 1970s, but these new CDs have been remastered with far higher quality. They've included some previously unreissued tunes, although (alas) they've left out the wildest of Ozark Bands, the Carter Bros. and Son. (Perhaps they're planning a separate CD?)

    This is one of the best collections of old-time music ever put together. Musicians like the Ill-Mo Boys and the Cash Rebates have drawn a great deal of their style and repertoire from these recordings, and you can hear in them the foundations of the string band sound heard weekly at contra-dances all over the Midwest. If anything, these bands are even wilder than contemporary bands, and carry with them the flavor of the old-time barn dances for which they played. This is great car music—and if you're worrying about low sound quality from old recordings, don't! The digital remastering has been done exquisitely - the engineer has cleaned up the sound enough that the remaining flaws don't distract from the music. And the music is simply splendid. Hog Eye and Jaw Bone, Going Down the River and an astonishingly dissonant Shortenin' Bread are probably my favorites, but it's hard to choose among such a splendid selection. These discs are classics, and you should not be without them another day.

    These wonderful discs can be ordered from County Sales (540-745-2001) or Elderly Instruments (517-372-7890, press 123 when you get the machine).